An intricate and orchestrated external public relations campaign to support China’s hard-line positions toward the Dalai Lama is outlined in a 22-page Chinese government document, leaked by an official in Beijing.
The document gives a rare and detailed glimpse into the inner workings of a plan to aggressively influence Western public opinion, exposing many of the ways in which the Chinese government works to create anti-American sentiment and pressure its academics and intellectuals to develop theories to support the government’s positions.
“It is difficult to reverse the present situation where the enemy’s fortune on the international arena is running high and ours low,” says the document, exhorting scholars and academics to work harder at shaping the thinking of the international community.
Aspects of the strategy laid out in the document are being put to use to attack the Dalai Lama, who is in Taiwan this week.
Academics, scholars and Tibetologists “must support our propaganda” says the document. Moreover “the very act of writing and publishing is for external propaganda and public opinion.”
The document sometimes exhibits a surprising level of candidness. For example, it admits that the Chinese government’s propaganda is often “out of tune with the reality in Tibet,” and that the government’s intellectual arguments are “inadequate to carry out our external struggle.”
The document was presented by Zhao Qizheng, minister in charge of the Information Office of the State Council, as a statement at a June 12, 2000, meeting of heads of Tibetology institutes and other research institutes.
Three books are identified as being particularly significant in forming Western public opinion: Tsering Shakya’s The Dragon in the Land of Snows (1999), Ken Knaus’s Orphans of the Cold War: America and Tibet’s Struggle for Survival (1999), and Michael van Walt’s The Status of Tibet (1987). “We cannot underestimate the negative impact of these books on our nation,” the document states.
The document also summarizes the strategy and campaigns of the “Dalai clique,” making reference to cutting off the “World Bank loan to our population transfer program in Tulan county,” disrupting “PetroChina’s entry into the American stock market” and the Third Tibet Support Group Conference held in Berlin in May, 2000.
The document will be of intense interest to Western Tibet scholars because they are a central part of Beijing’s strategy.
Beijing plans to reach out more aggressively to Western scholars in order to “encourage a considerable number of foreign specialists and intellectuals to speak out on our behalf.”
The document underscores the challenges of a totalitarian government to mobilize its academic and scholarly community against Western concepts and standards of international law, human rights and self-determination.
“This authoritarian approach is what keeps Chinese research on Tibet in the dark ages,” said John Ackerly, President of ICT.
“ICT supports academic exchanges with Tibetan scholars, but governments and universities should review their exchange programs and ensure they serve the interests of scholars and not of Beijing,” Mr. Ackerly said.